The wearing of front and rear seatbelts is compulsory when fitted.
Children under 10 are not allowed in the front. In the rear they must use a proper restraint system appropriate to their weight, which means a child seat if they weigh between 9 and 15 kg. Over this weight they can use seat belts with a booster cushion.
Drink Driving Limits
Do not do it. Over 50mg/100ml (UK 80mg/100ml) and you could face anything up to imprisonment.
Minimum Driving Age
The minimum driving age using a full UK licence is 18 for a car and a motorcycle over 125cc and 15 for a motorcycle under 125cc.
Urban kph (mph)
Open Road kph (mph)
Motorway kph (mph)
There is also a minimum speed limit of 80kph (50mph) on the outside lane of motorways during the day and on level ground.
Speed limits in towns and villages start at the place name sign and continue to the crossed out place name sign – do not expect any other warning.
The Paris ring road (périphérique) is subject to a 80kph (50mph) limit.
When visibility is below 50 metres (164 ft) a 50kph (31mph) limit applies to all roads including motorways.
The margin for exceeding the speed limit is 5kph for speeds under 100kph and 5% above.
Currently it is advised that dipped headlights are used at all times outside towns in any weather. Dipped headlights must be used in poor daytime visibility. Motorcycles over 125cc must use dipped headlights during the day at all times.
All grades of unleaded petrol, diesel and LPG are available as well as lead substitute additive. Leaded no longer exists. It is allowed to carry petrol in a can. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted, although they probably won't work at automatic pumps, which are often the only pumps in rural areas open out-of-hours, which also means lunch-time from noon to 3pm.
Most motorways are toll roads (péage). The fee is paid on leaving the motorway and is based on the category of vehicle and the distance driven. Most credit cards are accepted as are Stirling notes. Change is given in Euros
Avoid the barriers marked LIBER-T, these are reserved for drivers who have a subscription and pass and do not need to stop.
Parking restrictions are indicated by signs and yellow markings on the kerb. Dotted outlines indicate parking spaces (those marked ‘payant’ require payment). Parking meters are common in towns as are blue zones where you need to purchase and display a parking disc.
On a toll road the time you enter is printed on the ticket and your speed can be checked on exit and a fine may be levied. If you pay this fine "on-the-spot" then you will not incur any of the surcharges for delayed payment, which can end up very expensive.
On-the-spot fines up to €375 can be collected at the roadside. Ensure an official receipt is issued by the officer collecting the fine.
It is illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone whilst driving. Reportedly France also has a ban on the use of hands-free kits in cars.
Dial 112 anywhere in the EU to reach the emergency services.
Ambulance - 15
Police – 17
Fire – 18
Other Useful Information
Radar detectors are illegal in France whether in use or not. If you should be caught with such equipment in your vehicle, you are liable to a prison sentence, a fine, confiscation of the device and the vehicle. You should therefore ensure radar detectors are removed from your vehicle before commencing any journey to France.
Severe penalties for road traffic infringements are in force. These include imprisonment and a heavy fine for causing death whilst over the alcohol limit or under the influence of drugs and a similar penalty for causing death by dangerous or negligent driving. The French police strictly apply speeding restrictions and drivers exceeding speed limits face heavy on-the-spot fines. Drivers who break French driving laws can also have their British driving licences confiscated by French Police; and the driver concerned prevented from continuing to drive the vehicle. This could lead to the vehicle being temporarily impounded if no alternative driver with a valid licence is available.
Take care in built-up areas where the old rule giving priority to traffic coming from the right (Priorité à droite) still applies unless a yellow diamond indicates you have priority. On roundabouts you generally give priority to traffic already on the roundabout, in other words, coming from your left as you enter the roundabout.
As of 1st July 2012 it is illegal to drive in France without an NF Approved breathalyser in your car. To comply with the law you must have an NF approved device, not just any breathalyser will do. (see here)
Even in the mountains, winter motoring is not severely restricted. Snow chains must be fitted to vehicles using snow-covered roads in compliance with the relevant road signs. Fines may be imposed for non-compliance. Snow chains can be hired from most tyre specialist garages in France (see Michelin red guide). Cheaper still, you can buy them from Hypermarkets, especially in mountain areas.
Note 1: UK registered vehicles displaying Euro-plates (circle of 12 stars above the national identifier on blue background) no longer need a GB sticker when driving in European Union countries. Countries outside the EU still require national identification.
Note 2: Regardless of local requirements it is always a wise precaution to carry a spare set of vehicle bulbs and adjust headlamp beams for driving on the right. A spare bulb kit will not prevent a fine if you are travelling with faulty lights, but it may avoid the cost and inconvenience of a garage call out. On some cars it is inadvisable or impossible for anyone other than a qualified technician to change a headlamp bulb or lamp unit e.g. high intensity discharge (HID) headlamps and carrying spare bulbs is not an option. However, it is recommended that spare bulbs are carried for any lights which may be easily and/or safely replaced by the owner/driver. Do not forget to ensure that you also carry any tools that might be required to change the various bulbs.
Disclaimer EUroadlegal has made every effort to ensure that the information contained on this page is accurate and up-to-date. In most instances the information has been collated from either an official document from the country concerned or from two or more reliable sources. EUroadlegal cannot be held responsible for any actions resulting from the adherence to or ignoring of the information contained on this page. If you would like to contribute by adding, removing or modifying the data on this page based on your own experience, please us.